Learning to communicate is one of life’s most basic lessons… but how many of us do it effectively?One of the earliest lessons to learn in business is “Stick to your knitting” – Do what you are really good at and you will do well. But that’s only the start. You may know what you do well, you may understand all the nuances of your offering, the benefits you bring, the functionality, the service levels and the target audience – But does the market know? How can you succeed in business now when budgets are slashed and people really just don’t want to meet another supplier?The key is to communicate; effectively, cleverly and consistently. This doesn’t need to cost you anything, just a bit of time, attention and imagination. Remember your business doesn’t have to be different – you just need to do things in a different way. This article looks at the four Cs of effective communication that Redstorm uses in all our communications strategies. Use these four Cs to sharpen and target your communications whether you’re a sole trader or an international bluechip.Do your communications pass the 4Cs test?1. Crisp and ClearHow do you describe who you are and what your business does? Let’s go back to that dot com favourite the “Elevator Pitch”. Can you describe what you do (and your benefits) to someone not in your industry in 30 seconds or less? When you go to a networking event and you meet a promising prospect, does your description of your business hold that person’s attention? Do they actually understand what you do, well enough to explain it to someone else? Or do their eyes glaze over or wander across the room? “Crisp and Clear” is key to getting your message across and getting it understood and valued. Being crisp is about telling people what you do in as few words as possible and being clear means they take away the same message as the one you think you are giving… you’d be astonished how often this is NOT the case!2. Customer-CentricThe most important aspect of all communications is knowing your target audience, being “Customer Centric”. Know what they want, what they are trying to achieve in their own businesses and the types of products/services they may need. But even more important, try to get to know what they fear, what keeps them awake at night – to identify the benefits they would most value from you. This will enable you to tightly target your communications to smaller groups, leading to a better uptake of your message because it’s highly relevant , easier measurement of your campaigns and therefore decreased spend due to increased efficacy of your communications overall.3. Colourful ContentThere is so much noise and bustle in the communications space now that in order to grab some attention for your company your communications must have Colourful Content – tell them a story they will associate with. What makes your message worthy of attention? Is there an angle you can put on it to make people come on board? Can you inject a bit of excitement/colour into your communications to blast through all the other communications people come across every day?4. ConsistentOnce you get your message “Crisp and Clear”, ensure it’s “Customer Centric” and “Colourful”; that message needs to flow through all your communications – verbal, visual, written and web – it must be consistent! Everyone working with you needs to know what the message is and how it’s being communicated – Watch out especially if you’re a small company… NEVER assume your team knows what’s going on just because there are only 5 of you! In a larger company it’s critical to get strong internal communications running to ensure every team going into the market is singing the same song.The more consistent your communications, the stronger your brand becomes because people instantly see the brand and understand who you are, what you do and the benefits they will get from working with you. Re-establish this with EVERY customer interaction throughout the company. Reinforce your story as often as possible.Make Your Next Campaign CountEvery business is feeling the pinch so money is tight BUT marketing is key to the survival of your business so each and every bit you do counts. Have a look at the last campaign you did – even as simple as a round of emails to lapsed clients. Did it follow the 4 Cs? Was it Crisp and Clear, Customer-Centric, Colourful and Consistent?
Small businesses always benefit from some strategic media coverage. Often though they don’t have funds for PR professionals. Here are the Top 10 Tips for small businesses to generate their own successful PR. You just need to be proactive. Most of the news and information you see on the TV news or in the daily newspaper is generated by individuals or businesses just like yours. They send information to the media, usually via news releases and personal contact. Don’t expect the media to use your release verbatim – they may use some of the information often supplemented with a call to you as a spokesperson.Here are some tips for getting your organisation noticed by your local media.1. Get to know the media that are most likely to cover youRead and watch the media in your local area. Subscribe to the newspapers and magazines; watch the local news; bookmark media websites; and join any organisations where you are likely to meet reporters and editors .2. Learn the names of the reporters who cover the beats most significant to youFor instance, health reporters or sports reporters may be the ones who would be interested in your news. Then you can send your information directly to them rather than just to the “editor”. Don’t forget more specialised reporters such as the society page editor who might be interested in your special event if it involves community leaders. The calendar page editor will want your event listings. Most newspapers also carry a list of volunteer opportunities, so find out who writes those.3. Get to know reporters personallyStart by arranging a short meeting at their papers or TV stations to introduce yourself. Be considerate of their busy schedules and make it brief. Drop off some printed material or personally deliver that press release instead of mailing or emailing it. Over time, you will have other opportunities to develop these contacts into more familiar relationships.4. Send complimentary copies of your publications to reportersInstead of just sending these out with your mass mailings, personally send a copy with your business card attached. You can also attach a note directing the reporter to some item in the publication that might be of particular interest. Send an invitation to your special event to the appropriate reporter. Even if you don’t really expect the reporter to attend, the invitation will remind him or her of you and your organisation.5. Keep up with the personnel changes at your favorite media outletsThe turnover in the media is often rapid. Develop your own media list and keep it up-to-date. You may be able to subscribe to a media list for your locality, but it can’t substitute entirely for your own meticulously kept list.6. Always give the media information that is newsworthyYour information should be new, noteworthy, and relevant to a large share of the public. Reporters are not interested in yesterday’s news, items that are of interest only internally to your organisation, or routine events. Provide reporters with good human interest stories. Invite staff and volunteers at your organisation to let you know about good story ideas that you might be able to pitch to the media. The best ideas often come from people who are on the front lines of your organisation.7. Develop a “virtual” media kit that resides on your organisation’s websiteInclude the history of your business, its mission and goals, brief profiles and photos of key staff and board members, the most recent news releases, and a downloadable PDF of the current annual report if applicable. Busy reporters will appreciate being able to access this information easily.8. Take advantage of breaking news stories to promote your organisationThe best way to do this is to develop a cadre of “experts” who can speak to the issues your organisation addresses. Train these experts (they can be staff members and/or volunteers) and make them available to reporters.9. Make yourself available to the media at any timeGive them a home or cell number where they can reach you day or night. Put that number in your online media kit. Include it on your business card. When you receive a call from a reporter, get back to him or her as soon as you can. Reporters are working on deadline and will appreciate your rapid response.10. Always thank a reporter for his or her coverageSend a hand written thank-you note. Plus, never nitpick over minor inaccuracies. Corrections appear in small type on a back page. They are not worth your effort or of running the risk of irritating a reporter or editor.